[Guest Post] Fear: An ingredient for greatness!
In this post, Elisha Otome argues that although fear can be crippling, it is also needed - in right amounts - as a motivating force to accomplish great things. A lot of people keep on keeping on because “they are still scared.”
Fear can worsen a crisis
Have you known someone who was sick, but unaware of it, and did not experience any feelings of sickness…until the day they became aware of their ill state? Have you realized how sometimes people become rapidly weak and frail after a cancer diagnosis? They were apparently fine before they went for the check up! I once heard of a guy who had HIV for who knows how long, and it wasn’t until the day he was told of his status (through his girlfriend) that he began to feel the symptoms. One day he was seemingly strong like a horse, the next he was pale and vomiting. What changed? Awareness of where he was. [My aim here is not to argue against the established wisdom of medical checkups but to point out that knowledge of a precarious situation can exacerbate an already dire condition.] I have heard of people who, while climbing a tall mountain, become afraid only when they look down.
Many have reached heights or conquered challenges when their attention was focused on something other than the obstacles in front of them, because in that moment there was nothing to fear. Awareness of the obstacle breeds fear and has deprived many of the goals and victory ahead. The Bible tells the story of Peter, who walked on the sea while looking at Jesus, and not until he began to see the turbulence of the sea did he begin to sink. His fears were awakened when he became aware of the environment he was in.
But fear can also fuel dreams
It cannot be denied that fear has ruined many; it has broken many homes and destroyed many relationships. While it is true that fear can be destructive, many, through fear, have achieved their dreams. These people have become great through the motivation derived from their fears, and through their desire to overcome their fears. To some, their fear is poverty; to some, it is illiteracy; to some, it is sickness, or fear of their spouse, boss, or business. Yet, so many people have turned their fears into something that works in their favor; some have conquered nations, some have gotten great jobs, married pretty women, escaped dark situations, led armies to improbable victories, built empires, became great inventors, seized opportunities, attracted benefits, and amazed the world, and themselves. I am not interested in analyzing fear in this post; but I am convinced that fear can be an ingredient for greatness, and I do hope you will understand my view when you are through reading this piece.
How to overcome fear: keep swimming!
The story goes that there was a wealthy man who had only one daughter. When the daughter was of marriage age, the father sent news around town that all the eligible young men should come to compete in a test, which would determine who was fit to marry his daughter. On that set day, all the able-bodied young men came out. Some came with paper and pen and others with cutlasses and swords. The rich man took them to his swimming pool and addressed the men: "Any of you who can swim from one end of this swimming pool to the other may marry my daughter. In addition, I‘ll give him $5 million, a car, and a house so you can start life well. I shall be waiting to meet my son-in-law at the other side. Good luck!"
As the young men, all very excited at the prospect of winning, started taking off their shirts, a helicopter came over the pool and dropped snakes and crocodiles into the pool. Immediately, all the men turned back and started putting on their shirts again. Disappointed, some of them said, “Let the man marry his daughter. I can't enjoy a prize if I’m dead…” All of a sudden, they heard a splash in the pool. Everybody watched in amazement as one gentleman struggled his way across, avoiding the snakes and crocodiles. Finally, he made it to the other side. The rich man could not believe it. He asked the young man to name anything he wanted, but the man was still panting uncontrollably. Finally, he pulled himself together and made his request: "Please show me the idiot that pushed me in this pool.”
Funny, huh? While fear has made many shy away from their goal, fear has made many, as well, obtain victory and achieve their goal. Some people see the hole in the doughnut while others see the doughnut in the hole. It all depends on the way you look at it.
Follow your dreams by staying scared
While watching the movie The Karate Kid, I was inspired when Jackie Chan asked Jaden Smith why he wanted to keep fighting. His answer was puzzling. “But why do you want to keep fighting?” Jackie asked. “Because I am still scared,” he answered.
I would think that fear would make him want to quit fighting; I would think that his broken leg would shut him down completely; I would think that the fierceness of his opponent would make him run away like a whirlwind. Well, not for this young hero. His fear, and overcoming that fear, was what drove him to succeed, like the guy in the last story. Mind you, this guy (Jaden Smith) did not compete simply for the trophy; he competed to win over his fear, which is a greater reward, in my opinion.
I don’t know what is holding you down or depriving you from achieving that dream of yours. My father told me, “Not until your dream scares you terribly, have you started dreaming.” You shouldn’t be afraid to dream big. If you are afraid because of the hugeness of your dream, then you are on the right path, so says my father. But that fear should be your drive and motivation toward achieving the goal. That fear, in my opinion, is a good one and will set you apart. It will beautify your life and put you on the path to greatness, if not achieve greatness itself. If you learn how to overcome your fear, you can conquer anything and everything.
Otome Elisha, PhD, is currently a research scientist in Georgetown University. He loves chemistry with a passion. In his spare time, he enjoys teaching and writing, short stories, motivational writings and especially poetry.
Elisha can be reached at email@example.com